Date: 1/13/18 7:50 am
From: W. Douglas Robinson <w.douglas.robinson...>
Subject: [obol] Crossbill sounds
Some have asked for information about confirming call types of Red Crossbills.

This article does an excellent job of covering the topic. Importantly, it also explains how to get your recordings reviewed by more experienced people.

In a nutshell, load your recording into eBird the same way you drag and drop a pic into the media area for a species. List it at first as Red Crossbill. EBird automatically makes a visual image of your recording (spectrogram), which helps reveal the structure of sounds and allows typing in addition to providing an archived piece of data for re-assessment any time.

I am happy to review recordings, too, if you would rather just email them to me. It really is not hard most of the time. If you can notice the differences between an A, a V, and an S, then you can visually type crossbills. The tricky bit is knowing if you are listening to flight calls or other calls such as excitement and toop calls. The typing is based on flight calls. All crossbill recordings posted as a type on eBird will get reviewed by Matt Young or Tim Spahr anyway, so it is good to have extra eyes and ears examining the sounds.

With experience, several of the types can be identified by ear. If you can tell a Common Yellowthroat chip from a Wilson’s Warbler then you can easily learn the difference between a type 2 and type 3 Red Crossbill, for example. Nevertheless, if you identify crossbills to type in your eBird data, you should do so only if a recording was made. Lacking a recording, just list observations as untyped Red Crossbills, then add to your notes (species comments) that you think the birds were of a certain type.

Recording crossbills is really a fun activity, helps you pay close attention to these remarkable birds, and, you know, you will be ahead of the curve in your listing when/if someday several of these are split into officially recognized full species. The Cassia Crossbill already has.

It is also remarkable to gain an understanding of how far the crossbills go to find food. Widespread crop failure across the west sent our usual type 3 crossbills all the way to the upper midwest and northeast to find food. An article on the topic should be posted on the eBird Northwest page any day now.


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